Thursday, October 9, 2008

Are you following me?

I love Twitter. One of the most exciting events of my day is when someone I look up to starts following me. Today one of the best in my breed (at least I like to think so) did: David Armano (@armano). When that Twitter email enter my inbox I felt as excited as that groupie that a member of the band invites backstage but without the sexual connotation.

I read this week “The Only Two Secrets to Motivating Yourself You’ll Ever Need” on zenhabits about how to “1) make things enjoyable and 2) use positive public pressure” are the only two things needed to motivate yourself which I totally agree.

The more I’m connected through the different social media tools, either to those I consider mentors or to my peers, the keener my “Creative Mind” becomes. And that’s what I love about Social Media too.

I have a very special type of company, we do a bit of everything since that’s what our type of economy requires -no budget available for specialists but only generalists. So we say that User Experience Principals are the basis for what we do. We also promote the fact that we are very well connected in the country and the industry -information technology. So combining both and in response to the market demands -Costa Rica has become a haven for IT outsourcing/nearshore services- our small, thriving company offers: Content Strategy, Human Strategy and Brokering Services. Under the three areas of service we have many products and sometimes I ask myself how are all these related, because they are somehow. And mostly I ask how do we ended up knowing about them all enough to be an expert service company. It’s definitely curiosity and that’s a criteria I also use when hiring people.

But that curiosity could not find nourishment if it weren’t for social media. How else could I learn in small remote Costa Rica about the prophets. This is how I do it:
  • I read blogs of all sorts
  • I’m always reading Twitter updates
  • I use LinkedIn a lot
  • I look at SlideShare public presentations
  • Always subscribing and trying out new tech tools, etc.
And all the information I get from these and other social media tools, I check out. Thanks to a Jason Fried post on Twitter about SquareSpace I immediately analyzed the site and saw its potential in our market. After all people around me are constantly asking me if I do websites because they need one. How was I to explain that I only do the architecture and the content of a website but wasn’t able to do a whole website by myself? Now I don’t have to, because now we can do a complete website and adjust to the type of budgets the SMEs can afford.

My local followers on Twitter and offline as well benefit from the knowledge I transfer, which is 98% made up of other people’s inputs than my own idea. The value I add is in spreading the virus, not inventing it. And sometimes I do come up with a mutation of it that applies better locally.

There’s always going to be those of us who find value in trying to keep updated and those that find it a waste of work time or distracting. Yes it’s difficult to try and be in the loop, mainly if you are hundred of miles and a culture away. But it has paid off for me.

I was one of the first people to bring up the concept of User Experience in our country, our IT industry. This was back in the late 90’s when I discovered the SIG - IA mailing list, which I believe could be classified as early versions of social media which is now more related with Web 2.0. Through it I became aware of Morville’s and Rosenfeld’s Argus and their Polar Bear book; eventually the Adaptive Path people -I’ve even emailed with Jeff Veen at some point whom had been surfing in Costa Rica several times-, Christina Wodtke, etc.

I’ve come a long way: from going to the only LP store right downtown, the only LP store that sold records by “alternative” groups like The Clash and The Pixies, to finding new business ventures/ models online. In that LP store there were this huge books printed by a branch of the BBC, they were album listings so we would select a group by it’s name sometimes ordering recorded interviews by the Melody Maker. In those interviews the groups we were already listening to would talk about other groups that they currently liked or that influenced them and that was our queue to ordering new LPs from similar or related bands. And a couple of decades later I was deeply in love with Pandora until they banned non-US countries. So do you see the similarities in process but how technology has made it sooo much easier?

So when the people that since the late 90’s and the dozens of others that have also stepped up to the plate connect with me somehow I feel my effort in keeping up is being recognized, and that’s a lot for a girl from beautiful but tiny Costa Rica.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The philosophy I'm trying to promote

So it is very clear to me the way I do add value to business. I take information technology service providers, understand their offering and match them with companies that demand that kind of application development. It's a win win role I do for both parts. And I feel I do it well and fair. There's no hidden agenda but the pure objective of making everybody involved happy and mainly satisfied about achieving their goal. People who hear about this business model, even the ones that have been directly benefited by it, praise it. And I love playing the role of broker and even going further as to pitch in with new ideas and business opportunities that have been effective as well.

The difficult part is collecting my dollar worth for it. And not because the parties involved don't want to pay up. It's just because the right time to collect is, at least for me, not clear in any way: nor in timing, nor in amount, nor in punctual justification. It's just too intangible, or at least is how I perceive it.

When I do share the issue, the immediate respond I get is that I should be collecting a finder's fee and I figure that that is perfect! But one thing is theory and the other practice. First I haven't gotten my lawyer to come up with the written contract. Maybe he is a lousy lawyer and I do have to go for somebody else. The second next challenge is to figure out who'll pay for the fee. Will it be the local company which I got the project for, or will it be the foreign company or the demanding company which I did find them the best solution out there. Should it be both. Other questions like: if it is the local offerers, would they have to pay me per project or per contact; meaning that I might get them a contact from whom they get several amazing and lucrative projects from.

At this point I would settle for someone to just counsel me on the subject. Or ideally several someones that can advise me on different points of view of the subject like communicating the concept to the parties involved, timing, the scope of my role and not only the financial part. I wonder are roles like this out there, out of Costa Rica, in India maybe where the offshore IT outsourcing boom started way earlier?

I am very exciting to be doing my broker / finder role, I love it and I do believe I am great at it; I say that because of the hard evidence so far. I know loving something and working at it with dedication pays off at the end, so I don't worry. I will keep on doing the day's work.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The problem is "laughing all the way to the bank"

For the longest time I knew I wanted a business of my own. Over the years I had hundreds if not thousands of ideas. And they were good really; so good in fact that other people used them (because they thought of them too in other places and other times, and not because they stole them from me) and seemed that they made lots of money or at least money with them.

My problem has never been lack of initiative, capability or opportunity. My problem mainly has been being able to make money... as simple as that. I haven't been good at all at making money.

Take my first cousin. I only have two first cousins on my mom's side of the family. My uncle, my mom's younger brother was married for ten years but had no kids and then divorced and remarried the most wonderful woman and had two lovely kids. They are all grown up now, in fact my little cousin is about to be married. But I was 15 years old when she was born. Anyway, the point is she is great at making money. That's what she does best. Since she's a teenager she sells stuff, makes stuff and sells it, buys stuff and sells it, get in on family business and earns her commission cut. She wins valuable prices at singing contests for example. She is just great at making money. But that's not me though.

So this year I decided, or lets really call it what it is: Destiny pushed me to the edge and I had to jump at starting my own business whether I wanted it or not. So I put my best foot forward and put on a courageous face and the most positive attitude I'd ever have in my entire life. And as usual, everything is turning out peachy: my office facilities are simple but beautiful, the staff I hired is smart and eager; potential clients are pouring in and so are business possibilities. But the fact is, I am not making any money at all. Everything is investment and even though we are all busy busy busy I stop for a sec and I clearly see that I am not making nor now, nor tomorrow, nor next week any money.

Why is it so difficult for me to close a deal. I can sell very well, mainly because I really believe in what I do, what I offer and the value it adds to my clients. And yes I do have clients. But is the "ok now for this and that and here and there, that'll be $xxx(xxx hopefully)".

I want to live up to that famous phrase or quote: "laughing all the way to the bank." And no I don't want to become a millionaire. I just want to have an "amazing company", one of the top workplaces, a corporation that shares and helps others grow and prosper. I would love to laugh then: when off to the bank with money that will be put to the best use.

In writing this one advice in my head surfaces and that is to have the attitude of solving the problem on small step at a time; having small and constant objectives like "tomorrow I'll sell at least one service", "this morning I will close one sale, just one sale, that's my focus: closing one." And relaying on that has just made me a lot more peaceful. Maybe this is what is referred to as transforming problems into challenges or action items instead of impediments.

I wanted to share about this just because the Internet and blogs are always filled with success stories about making money fast and it seems that the people who do make money fast do it easily as well; but I wonder whatever happened to the stories that our grandparents used to tell. There were no: "started in the garage with a PC and was bought a month later for a billion dollars" types of stories; but more like "we had to sell the refrigerator even and buy the day's food each and every day. But we finally sold a batch and by the end of the year we were able to buy a used refrigerator from uncle Carl".

I believe in success and in making it and I know my pretty little start up will cash a client's check sooner that later, but I also have to remember that stories of overcoming long periods of just hard work are as true today as were 50 years ago.